Although they are coming off of a playoff appearance in 2021, the expectation coming into 2022 is that the Patriots will take a step back. It doesn’t help that they will be opening on the road in a stadium where they have struggled (2-7 in last 9 games) against a team who has beaten them in three consecutive meetings. While all may seem lost, here are three reasons why the Patriots can win.
Patriots defense will be able to control Miami passing game
Despite losing three in a row to Miami and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Patriots have only given up 152 passing yards per game with Tagovailoa throwing 2 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. While Miami has added Tyreek Hill as another weapon, the Patriots have proven to be able to keep the speedy wideout in check. In fact, the secondary looks to be the strong suit of the defense heading into the season, and even the rookies have drawn praise for their abilities.
The other half of the equation when it comes to controlling the Dolphin passing game is the pass rush, and I think the Patriots can have success. Matthew Judon will continue to lead the rush against the quarterback but players such as Josh Uche, Deatrich Wise and Anfernee Jennings are expected to provide a boost. It also helps when Christian Barmore is able to help collapse the pocket from his defensive tackle position as one of the better pass rushers in the NFL from that position.
Patriots will be able to control game through running game
During their two defeats to the Dolphins in 2021, the Patriots were able to run the ball fairly well against the Miami front seven, averaging over 4.5 yards per rush. The running game put the Patriots in a position to win the season opener against Miami last year until Damien Harris fumbled inside of field goal range. Even after falling behind 17-0 in the season finale, the Patriots still leaned on the run as they rallied to make it a 27-24 game in the 4th quarter.
I think Harris as well as Rhamondre Stevenson will provide a nice one-two punch in the running game to control the clock in most of their games, especially if the offensive line can stay healthy. The Patriots return four starters on the line, and rookie first rounder Cole Strange, who they drafted mainly for his ability to create holes in the running game.
Bill Belichick is still the coach of the Patriots
Everyone is concerned about who is calling plays on offense. Is it Matt Patricia? Is it Joe Judge? Eventually it falls on the 6-time Super Bowl winning head coach, as Belichick discussed the other day.
"“Ultimately, it’s my responsibility, like it always is. So if it doesn’t go well, blame me.”"
There hasn’t been too much to blame Belichick for over the past 20+ years in New England, and I still have confidence that he will have the team ready to go Sunday after practicing in the Miami heat and humidity all week. Two other factoids: Belichick has never lost four consecutive games to a single opponent as New England head coach, and he is 53-17 against rookie head coaches.